Fes

The Medina

Our trip to Morocco was a mixture of wonder, beauty, and naivety with cultural schooling. We enjoyed our traveling companions Deb and Frank; experiences are always best when shared with people you love.

The trip started out rather rough. Tom almost didn’t make the trip. 6 days prior he had gotten food poisoning and was sicker than I’d ever seen him. The day before our trip he went to the hospital and got pumped with fluids and antibiotics. He still couldn’t eat much and was weak, but was determined to make the trip.

Our first stop was Tangier, an hour and a half flight from Lisbon. We arrived at the El Minzah hotel just after midnight. It was a beautiful elegant hotel of the old Hollywood days. A bit worn, but her glory still shone.

The next morning after breakfast we ventured to the medina and its narrow streets. We didn’t get very far before a variety of unofficial guides tried to help us find our way. We had been warned that there were men would try and help you for a fee. All we had to do was stop, look at a map, or just look up and there would be someone to “help”. Once they locked onto us we had a really hard time shaking them. “No Thank You” 20 x went right past them. We’d think we’d finally break away only to find them around the next corner waiting for us. It made it difficult to enjoy the surroundings. After this we decided a guide from the hotel would be best, as just their presence created the needed barrier.

Ramadan was happening which brought an exclamation point to the Muslim culture, fasting during the daylight, no food, water, smoking, or sex. Restaurants were often closed in the day and so we needed to plan accordingly. We felt a bit guilty pulling out our water bottles in the 90-degree heat, but not enough to stop us from doing it.

Tangier is like many cities with a little less than a million people… bustling, traffic and hustling. We didn’t really see that much of the city as we only had 1 day before heading to Fes & much of it felt like navigating our way out of being “helped”.

We took the train from Tangier to Fes, the trip was a little over 5 hours in comfortable seats and through countryside similar in many ways to eastern WA. Rolling hills of wheat, dessert and olive groves. On the train, a lovely man tried to scam us into switching hotels (a 5 hour story best told over cocktails). In Fes we were greeted by 2 drivers, one from the scammer and one from the hotel/riad. We negotiated our way out of the scam and into the van for the riad. By this time my spidey sense was on full alert and I was ready to draw my sword at any moment.

The riad is located within the walls of Fes El Bali, one of the worlds’ oldest still operational walled cities. Its streets are pedestrian only, too narrow for vehicles. We were met at one of the gates by Abdou from the riad along with a man and his hand cart. They put all the luggage into the cart and off it went. I leapt into action following the cart directly. There was no way I was going to let it out of my sight.

As soon as we went through the gate into the medina it was like “POW” we were in a time warp and different dimension. It was like walking into a land of a thousand fairytales in a maze of tiny streets. The streets were lined with little shops, each with a story. The first one I noticed was a cobbler working on a leather piece, his space was about 10’ square. He sat prominent in the window framed like a painting by shoes, materials and tools that lined the walls and piled the counters. The streets range from 3-8 feet wide. Trying to keep up with the cart I rushed passed a stream of people, donkeys, and carts all flowing peacefully through the streets. The sights, sounds and intimacy of the medina were intoxicating. We turned left and right too many times to recount until reaching the Riad Kettani.

We walked through the doors into an oasis that would be ours for the next 6 days. We landed in a courtyard with a fountain and seating. Tile and plaster carved walls with balconies led up to a glass covered ceiling 3 stories up.

We were greeted lovingly by Latifa who brought us warm wet towels to wash away any unpleasantness and hot Moroccan tea to replenish. We rested in the courtyard before being shown our rooms. The rooms were very spacious with tall ceilings. Beautiful tile and woodwork lined the surfaces. The space truly felt welcoming, like a second home. Soon after arrival we heard the call to prayer. All the business with scams that had me fragile seemed just like foolishness now. Just a way of doing business I was not accustomed to.

KhalibOur riad arranged a guide, Khalib, to take us on various excursions. We started with the old Medina where 156, 000 people live in the compact maze. The medina is full of craftsmen: weavers, leather goods, wood carvers, metal workers, potters, tile workers…. Khalib explained while tourism is very important to their economy, the medina was for the local people. Most business in the medina was done by men. The men wore a combination of western clothes and djellabas (robes). The women, mostly consumers, wore djellabas and head scarfs. There were also lots of what seemed to be homeless cats, many were kittens. Deb saved table scraps and would feed them; the locals would smile at her approvingly.

Always with the call to prayer there would be scurrying of people going to their places of worship. The were 50 mosques within the walls. While we weren’t invited into the mosques, the doors were always open and the street being very narrow provided a good view.

Khalib lead us through sections of the medina at a steady pace: craft, practical goods, food, meat market and the tannery. We briefly touched on the larger city of Fes, the second largest city in Morocco with 1.1 million people.

Our first trip out of Fes the next day brought us to Volubilis, an ancient Roman and Berber city in operation from the 3rd century BC to the 11th century AD. Beautiful stone ruins met with the dirt and sky in a hot and mostly arid climate. Then on to Meknes a medium sized city, now known for the place I got food poisoning, as I can’t remember anything particularly interesting about it.

I missed going to the Atlas mountains the next day as I purged. The best thing about the illness was I had no pain, just a fever and evacuation. I was however in a fasting dreamlike state for the rest of the trip with an elevated temp each evening. I didn’t really mind, I loved Fes, a lovely place to convalesce.

Fes is very special. The tiny streets full of life, holding on to a culture centuries old. There something grounding about being so close to so many people who devout to their culture and religion with the call to prayer 5x a day. It brings a continual reminder of the present moment, our purpose and intent.

I would have loved to spend more time just hanging around the medina observing, as everything we did was at a pace that kept us moving through spaces. To sit quietly and listen would have brought a deeper meaning to this magical place.

The only word I can remember in Arabic is “shukraan” which means thank you.  Shukraan Fes, I look forward to returning one day.

DSC04835aMore photos here… 

Fes

everyday racism

I struggle with racism. I am embarrassed by my past and what I carry forward. I’d like to say I’m not a racist, but having grown up in a racist society, who am I kidding?

I consciously fight racism and try to greet each person or situation with a positive intent, yet there are fleeting thoughts from years of racist programming. Whether it’s memories from a TV comedy skit where the black man answers “yessa massa” to the white man; or of living in New York and having friends’ parents say “lock your doors” as we drove through black neighborhoods; or another parent saying put your hands over your necklaces as we walked the streets; or another telling me I looked like a nigger woman from the fields when I wore a bandanna.

My parents were never overtly racist although it was all around us. Growing up, we lived in a white neighborhood on Long Island and had no black friends. There was one black kid in my middle school and just a hand full in high school. My exposure to people of other races was limited and fear and racism were subtly and not so subtly imposed. We were told the Hispanic families that lived in the next town over were dirty “spics”. I would look at people of color and try to imagine what their lives were like. I was curious, though recognized my people are different than your people.

My father had an employee who was a Chinese immigrant, a widow and single parent. She and her son would join us on holidays and other events; they would always bring exotic foods. We loved them. But again they were different, they looked different, smelled different, cooked different. I wasn’t taught different was bad, but there were subtle social queues that implied different didn’t belong in the same way that our white friends did.

Of course, as I became more independent and explored the world, I could see the limited perspective I had grown up in. If not conscious, we can become victims of our cultures and limit our opportunities for love. And while I now intentionally fight racism, my childhood memories still linger, and I am ashamed of them. I know I am not alone in this.

There is a meme “Never be defined by your past. It was just a lesson, not a life sentence.”  Yeah, I’m trying.

everyday racism

Everyday Sexism: “Pretty”

Every culture has odd beliefs that have evolved for different reasons. One of ours is the concept that a woman’s worth is tied heavily to her looks. We have billion dollar industries perpetuating this notion. Think about it, women paint their faces because they’re taught that their natural beauty isn’t enough. That she needs to attract a man by looking pretty. Where is the love in this action? Alicia Keys is being highlighted because she’s given up make up. This is news, this is what Americans care about, this is sad. (although good on Alicia Keys)

Question culture, question authority, question our motives.

Everyday Sexism: “Pretty”

everyday

In the wake of our president elect. I keep thinking about how we got here. How America decided that a very rude sexist, racist, xenophobic, bigot was the best choice for us. Beyond the issues with the electoral college and the democrats forgetting about the rural working class, we as a country have allowed for bad behavior to gestate and Trump is the manifestation. It didn’t happen overnight, it’s been a very long slow boil. Due in part because its’ profitable. Society makes money on fear, ego and laziness…

It takes diligence and discipline to stay morally correct, especially when so much of our culture is counter to it. Our natural tendency is to belong, and with that we often give up our social agency. It starts as little things, like commenting on what a person is wearing (especially a woman), or  laughing at a movie that’s making fun of a fat person, disability, racial slur, punch in the face or murder. Because we are easily bored the media pushes our boundaries for profit. We pay to be surprised, shocked and scared.

So, what to do? Try not to buy into for profit schemes that don’t come from Love. This is tough, it means changing habits (but I gotta watch America’s Next Top Model…). We can at least try, and if we fail do so with eyes open. And when we see inappropriate conduct, recommend everyone be cool and rethink their actions. No vigilantes please. This gives us all a chance to check themselves. Our society allowed for bad behavior to evolve. It won’t change overnight especially if it is met with hostility. People can be idiots, remind them there are other options. Changing culture starts with awareness.

I’m going to start posting some of the “everyday” unfortunate cultural norms I’ve seen and been part of. I encourage you to do the same. Looking at sexism, racism, xenophobia, bigotry and more. I’m starting with sexism because we are taught first to be sexist.

 

everyday

affirmations.

Anything of value requires continual attention and care.

Start a movement.... Photo credit: Ruby Sparks
Start a movement.

The day after the election I couldn’t get off the couch. I was devastated by the desperation for change that half my countrymen have, and the resulting election. The day after that I blamed those of us in our self-entitled liberal bubbles; for not knowing and caring for our rural neighbors.

Of late, I realize it’s a complicated mess and finger wagging is meeting this catastrophe with the same energy that created it. I’m ready to move forward. Starting with affirming what I value, my vision of the world I want to live in, and where I can effect change.

This is a working draft of my vision and living principles…

 
Vision: A joyous and compassionate world. To benefit society through conscious actions in support of social accountability.

*Daily Affirmations: With the awareness that I can only control myself; how I receive the world and what I give, I endeavor to always start from love and to:

  • Love myself first so I can greet the world from a place of love.
  • Show up; be present to the moment and circumstance.
  • Pay attention; listen, see, and feel without judgement. See where there is love.
  • Speak my truth; praise what is right, guide what is not. It is not my job to scold, smite, or bear false witness. (This is hard for my ego) (I am usually right) (See, I can’t yet let it go)
  • Humor is important to the process of letting go.
  • Seek the power of the conscsious collective; together we are unstoppable.
  • Don’t attach to outcome; as I can only control myself.

From here I will find solutions to unite my fellow countrymen, end divides, to be kind and compassionate. I look forward with curiosity to the new friends I will make.

oxo flora

*I borrowed heavily from the wisdom of the Fourfold Way by Angelis Arrien

affirmations.

surveilled

 

Cleaning the attic… this recording aired on 11/14/2010 as part of a BBC radio series titled Americana. Jonathan Raban interviewed Jonathan Cluts and I at the Microsoft Home. We were showing off smart connected technologies and how we might use them in the future.

Raban talks about privacy and the potential nightmare of surveillance. He asks, “Will your home report back to the FBI?” I responded “…We/Microsoft believes firmly is that the individual owns the right to their own information. We choose who to share it with and how to share it, so I don’t think the fact that its digital and potentially available means that everyone has access to it…” To which asks if we’ll be immune from the NSA… He pegged that one. I was optimistic.

We did realize that inventions are often used in ways never intended, and so stressed the importance of thinking about the long term implications of what we bring into the world.

In 2006 Raban wrote Surveillance

surveilled

Wellbeing

:0)

Being human isn’t easy. Few people appear to glide through life without physical, emotional or spiritual issue. For most of us, our wellbeing is dependent on a balance of systems, methods and luck, each changes throughout our lives and each is influenced by the other. The ones I find myself pondering the most are, our…

  • Genes and DNA- the kit we are born with, our building blocks for physical and biological potential.
  • Environment- including the way we were raised, diet/supplements/chemicals, technology, education, exercise, clothing, work, culture, community…
  • Personal beliefs- how we view ourselves and humanity, our contribution and personal practices as well as our mental constructs. Our innate need to belong has us subscribe to belief systems that mold our thinking. Lest we forget, we make up culture and what we choose to be certain of.
  • Life stage- at different phases of our lives we want and are capable of different things. Sometimes we want to ride the dragons…be the dragons…slay all the dragons…watch dragons being slayed…or don’t give a shit about dragons.
  • Chemistry- everything we do relies on neurons communicating with one another in the brain by sending chemical or electrical messages. If there is a miscommunication, we may feel or be a putt away from the abyss.

Circumstance is also a factor- being in the right place at the wrong/right time for that bus, disease, lottery, war…

Even though some areas of wellbeing are out of our control, we are learning more everyday about how each of these systems work. Technology is playing a large role in helping our understanding and finding solutions. Technology has also put us in an experimental petri-dish as our drive for new discoveries continues to change our relationship with the world and each other.

Wellbeing takes discipline, consciousness and Luck. Be well!

…….

This was adapted from an earlier story Positively Depressed.

Wellbeing

Top 10 Yays for 2016

NYC

It’s time to shift things from Nay to Yay!  Let’s celebrate what’s right and spread the love.
The top best things about our 2016 society are:

  1. Connection::: and access to loved ones, information, art, culture, music, science across the globe (and skies) in real-time… brings joy.
  2. Globalization::: seeing and experiencing other cultures, lifestyles and perspectives. The diversity of the world is so darned interesting.
  3. Conversations::: we are having conversations about tough and once taboo topics. While many are heated, we are at the very least acknowledging them.
  4. Empowerment::: with focus, resources and drive, almost anything seems possible.
  5. Collaboration::: genius creators are putting their talents together to build a beautiful future.
  6. Community::: there are endless communities to engage with, become part of, and enjoy.
  7. Sciences::: advancements have us understanding more about nature, space, time, and being human.
  8. Technology::: innovations enable us to make and do just about anything (in any size, anywhere).
  9. The Cuteness::: with all the animal and kid videos to enjoy.
  10. Autonomy::: we are questioning authority, untethering from old belief systems and making informed independent decisions.

Yeah, it’s US centric- cause that’s where I live. I would have liked to put #10 higher on the list, although this great trend is still forming…

This list is updated from last year.

Top 10 Yays for 2016

Top 10 Nays for 2016

rustyMy current top 10 list for the US’ societal problems.

  1. Engagement::: We have the technology to solve most of society’s big problems. We’re missing the will to engage; due in some part to narcotizing dysfunction.
  2. Our Environment::: Climate change, global warming, pollution, destruction of natural habitats, diminishing resources… exasperated by politics. Only Four in ten Americans think the people can convince Congress to pass legislation to reduce global warming. Here is one obstacle.
  3. Culture::: We are media driven, driving us to want and have more. It also divides us and encourages an “us vs them” outraged mentality. In example…
    1. Trump::: We have manifested a sexist rude charade for president.
    2. Misnomers::: For example feminism and patriotism. The first example is often used as a hateful statement. The second is often used in defiance against an opposing view, claiming exclusivity in their love for our country.
    3. Access:: Our 24/7 access to digital life and non-life, obscures our focus and diverts our attention from the physical here and now.
    4. These are learned beliefs and behaviors; please unlearn them.
  4. Inequality::: Civil rights, education, ethnicity, gender, immigration, income, lifestyle consumption, poverty, race, reproductive rights, sexual orientation, wealth…
  5. Healthcare::: Cost, access, for profit systems… Don’t care for our ill.
  6. Education::: Archaic systems, cultural irrelevancy, accessibility, differing expectations…
  7. Homelessness::: It’s plain Sad, Sad, Sad.
  8. Overpopulation:: Too many people eating up too few resources.
  9. Fear::: Fear is a strategy and tactic. Fear takes us off course.
  10. Humans::: The majority of society’s problems are human made. We can be loving, generous, genius creators and also selfish, stubborn, lazy destroyers all in the same breath. We struggle with  balancing our conflicting nature. We’re not all bad or all good, we’re flawed. Our need to belong has us align with belief systems and social structures that struggle in our newly global ever changing world. This too has divided us and conflicts with our agency in the world.

This list is clearly focused on our human flaws and in the weeds for some of them.

What are your top 10?

The list from last year.

p.s.- Be both a feminist and patriot.

 

Top 10 Nays for 2016